O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you know our struggle to serve you:
when sin spoils our lives
and overshadows our hearts,
come to our aid
and turn us back to you again;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 7.1-2, 8-10
O Lord my God, in you I take refuge;
save me from all who pursue me, and deliver me,
Lest they rend me like a lion and tear me in pieces
while there is no one to help me.
Give judgement for me
according to my righteousness, O Lord,
and according to the innocence that is in me.
Let the malice of the wicked come to an end,
but establish the righteous;
for you test the mind and heart, O righteous God.
God is my shield that is over me;
he saves the true of heart.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
When they heard Jesus speak, some in the crowd said, ‘This is really the prophet.’ Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But some asked, ‘Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’ So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, ‘Why did you not arrest him?’ The police answered, ‘Never has anyone spoken like this!’ Then the Pharisees replied, ‘Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law – they are accursed.’ Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, ‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’ They replied, ‘Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.’
Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.
How confident do you feel in your familiarity with the Bible? The Bible is a library of sixty-six books which are divided into the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Scriptures, tells of the history of the Jewish race before the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The New Testament tells a different story, whilst being firmly rooted in the earlier writings of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Old Testament prophesies the coming of the Messiah, while the New Testament reveals Jesus as that promised Messiah, the Anointed One of God. Throughout the gospel narrative Jesus quotes from and refers to the writings of the Hebrew Scriptures, pointing out his place in God’s plan for the whole of his wondrous creation.
So, I ask again: how confident do you feel in your familiarity with the Bible? Do you know that the sixty-six books that make up the inspired word of God divide into different literary genres that encompass the law, the prophets, wisdom writings, history and letters, as well as the gospels? And, how often do you read the Bible? The ‘killer’ question! The question that can turn our gossip-based acquaintance with scripture into a real, life-changing experience.
In today’s reading we are given a glimpse of what a passing, hearsay-driven knowledge of the Bible can do, a superficial knowledge that seems convincing but is really incomplete because it is not rooted in faith. The reading opens with the crowd disputing over the interpretation of scripture. Can you imagine such a thing happening in our modern society? The crowd is obviously aware of the writings of the prophets Jeremiah and Micah. The crowd is aware of the significance of a lineage that can be traced back to King David and the hilltop town of Bethlehem. But, we could probably say the same, thanks to our familiarity with the annual service of Nine Lessons and Carols, although we may struggle with identifying Jeremiah and Micah as the relevant sources for our ‘knowledge’. The crowd is also aware that, according to the holy writings, no prophet is to arise from Galilee.
Now we come to the moment when faith comes to the fore. Thanks to the gospel writers we do know Jesus’ lineage and birthplace, and we know much more. The crowd was looking for a prophet whilst being confronted with something much greater. A prophet hears and proclaims the word of God. Jesus is not just a prophet, Jesus is that Word of God. The promised Messiah stood before the crowd and its self-imposed small-mindedness prevented it from recognizing him, and it led many of them down the path of uncertainty and doubt.
Let us pray for perseverance and an open mind as we seek the truth through our engagement with God’s holy and inspired Word.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to God, our heavenly Father.
Sovereign Lord, your Son has revealed you as our heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. You have made your Church a spiritual family, a household of faith. Through baptism we are reborn as the brothers and sisters of Christ. Deepen our unity and fellowship in him.
You sent your Son to give his life as a ransom for the whole human family. Give justice, peace and racial harmony to the world he died to save.
You gave your Son a share in the life of a family in Nazareth. Help us to value our families, to be thankful for them, and to live sensitively within them.
Your Son drew around him a company of friends. Bring love and joy to all who are alone. Help us all to find in the brothers and sisters of Christ a loving family.
You are the God of the dead as well as of the living. In confidence we remember those of the household of faith who have gone before us. Bring us with them to the joy of your home in heaven.
Prayer for the week
be with us in our search for peace,
in ourselves and in the world you have made.
Diminish pride and increase humility;
weaken suspicion and nourish trust.
Deepen true love and understanding in every heart,
and unite us all as members of one family;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
‘God’s kingdom is upon you!’
the message sounds today,
it summons every pilgrim
to take the questing way,
with eyes intent on Jesus,
our leader and our friend,
who trod faith’s road before us,
and trod it to the end.
Robert Willis (b. 1947)